Stan was agitated. He was a six-foot, 200-something pound man and a force not to be trifled with. It was in May, 1983, that Stan Rogers barreled into a Vancouver presenter's office, band in tow. They were in town en route to the Kerrville Texas Folk Festival, where Stan was invited to give the Texans a taste of folk music, Canadian style. The Kerrville event had a big reputation and the event was seen as valuable exposure for the northerners.
Usually concerts are planned months, even years, in advance, to maximize exposure and minimize expense, other times a gig may be booked to fill in down time during travel. There were good reasons not to have Stan Rogers show on this particular run through Vancouver. Time was short, making it impossible to follow the usual steps. It was a long weekend, and difficult to accomodate folkies on the cheap. There was also that Canadian rite of spring, the Stanley Cup, to contend with. Irrespective of the obstacles, the road abhors a vacuum and commitments were made for the concert.
Stan was hoping for rooms at the Sylvia Hotel on English Bay, he and the band had to make do with rooms at the Holiday Inn on Broadway. With a few hours to kill before the concert, the group went to their rooms to recuperate from their arrival. In his room, Garnet, Stan's younger brother, discovered thoroughly plugged plumbing. His call to the front desk was responded to with great speed and courtesy, and a smiling bellhop presented him with a plunger before disappearing.
The venue for the concert, Isadora's Cooperative Restaurant, was one of the last gasps of the 1960s. It was an offshoot of a housing co-op movement of the era, and offered shares with dividends in the form of free food. It was a swell place for a family meal and could accomodate carnivores or vegetarians, especially with the nut burger on the menu. It was an oily old machine shop transformed into a trendy two-tiered west coast style restaurant on Granville Island.
Unfortunately, there were some problems with the setup for the evening. The soundboard operator's view of the stage was blocked by a potted fern, for example. Also, miscellaneous sounds made their way into the speakers and the mixing of voices and instruments wasn't well done.
Picture a flustered man the size of a linebacker stuck on a stage the size of a postage stamp in the middle of cutlery clatter hardly able to hear his own voice. The audience didn't seem to notice, though, so he soldiered on.
Stan usually didn't drink until after a performance, but on this night he hoisted a well-deserved brandy at the half intermission and, referring to the chaotic audio elements, said, "It's like a bloody windstorm out there!"
Stan was heading home from a triumphant gig at Kerrville on June 2, 1983 when Air Canada Flight 797 had an on-board fire and Stan's was among the lives claimed. One can speculate endlessly on what the future might have held for the big fellow. Decades later his albums sell as briskly as any folkies in the country. Canadian music was robbed of a singular talent.